Winter Celebrations and Holidays Around the World

Christmas candle

Christmas candle | istockphoto

It’s difficult to miss the hustle and bustle in the city streets and the quantity of hanging lights from homes and trees. You’ve noticed how excited people become this time of year and you begin to wonder: What is the meaning behind many of these celebrations? Here is a brief look at some of the winter celebrations and holidays around the world.

Hanukkah – December 16 – December 24 (Dates are for 2014)

For eight days each November or December, Jews light a special candleholder called a menorah. They do it to remember an ancient miracle in which one day’s worth of oil burned for eight days in their temple. On Hanukkah, many Jews also eat special potato pancakes called latkes, sing songs, and spin a top called a dreidel to win chocolate coins, nuts, or raisins.

Christmas – December 25

People celebrate this Christian holiday by going to church and narrating the birth of Jesus Christ, the founder of Christianity. On this December day, families spend time together and start the morning by exchanging various gifts. In some parts of Europe, “star singers” go caroling — singing special Christmas songs — as they walk behind a huge star on a pole.

Chinese New Year – January 21 – February 20

Many Chinese children dress in new clothes to celebrate Chinese New Year. People carry lanterns and join in a huge parade led by a silk dragon, the Chinese symbol of strength. According to legend, the dragon hibernates most of the year, so people throw firecrackers to keep the dragon awake.

Kwanzaa – December 26 – January 1

Kwanzaa, a holiday which celebrates family, community, and culture. Celebrated annually from December 26th through January 1st. Kwanzaa is a more recent observance, known as First Fruits celebration, dating back to December 26, 1966 in Los Angeles, California. The First Fruits celebration dates back to ancient Egypt and Nubia times.


  1. What winter celebrations or holidays does your family share at home?
  2. Google search the following phrase: winter celebrations or winter holidays. What interesting research did you find?

Categories: History

Tags: , , , , ,

42 replies

  1. 1) Yes I have celebrations similar to the ones above.

    2) Winter Celebrations:

    Chinese New Year

    Chinese New Year is the most important of the traditional Chinese holidays. It falls on different dates each year, between January 21 and February 20. Visits to friends and family take place during this celebration. The color gold is said to bring wealth, and the color red is considered especially lucky. The New Year’s Eve dinner is very large and includes fish, noodles, and dumplings. Chinese New Year begins on February 19, 2015.


    Christmas is celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. Christmas in the United States brings together many customs from other countries and cultures. Around the world, family members help to decorate the tree and home with bright lights, wreaths, candles, holly, mistletoe, and ornaments. On Christmas Eve, many people go to church. Also on Christmas Eve, Santa comes from the North Pole in a sleigh to deliver gifts; in Hawaii, it is said he arrives by boat; in Australia, the jolly man arrives on water skis; and In Ghana, he comes out of the jungle.


    Jewish people celebrate Hanukkah, a holiday honoring the Maccabees victory over King Antiochus, who forbid Jews to practice their religion. For eight nights, Hanukkah is celebrated with prayer, the lighting of the menorah, and food. A Hanukkah menorah has nine candles, a candle for every night, plus a helper candle. Children play games, sing songs, and exchange gifts. Potato pancakes, known as latkes in Yiddish, are traditionally associated with Hanukkah and are served with applesauce and sour cream. This year Hanukkah starts the evening of Tuesday, December 16 and the last night is Wednesday, December 24.


    On December 26, Kwanzaa is celebrated. It is a holiday to commemorate African heritage. Kwanzaa lasts a week during which participants gather with family and friends to exchange gifts and to light a series of black, red, and green candles, which symbolize the seven basic values of African American family life that are unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith.

    New Year’s Day

    New Year’s Day is the first day of the year in the Gregorian calendar on January 1. There are often fireworks at midnight to celebrate the new year. Commonly served in the southern part of the United States, black-eyed peas are thought to bring luck and prosperity for the new year, greens (usually collards) bring wealth, and pork because pigs root forward.

    Three Kings Day

    At the end of the Twelve Days of Christmas comes a day called the Epiphany, or Three Kings Day. This holiday is celebrated as the day the three wise men first saw baby Jesus and brought him gifts. On this day in Spain, many children get their Christmas presents. In Puerto Rico, before children go to sleep on January 5, they leave a box with hay under their beds so the kings will leave good presents. In France, a delicious “kings’ cake” known as La galette des rois is baked. Bakers hide a coin, jewel or little toy inside it.

    Winter Solstice

    The Winter Solstice occurs Sunday, December 21 this year. It is the shortest day of the year. People all over the world participate with festivals and celebrations. Long ago, people celebrated by lighting bonfires and candles to coax back the sun.